“The knowledge of the past stays with us. To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit.” – Jack Kornfield
“In order to be who you are, you must be willing to let go of who you think you are,” asserts Michael Singer in his acclaimed book, The Untethered Soul.
Our perception of self is a mental construct and does not represent who we are. The image of the Self is formed to preserve your position in the world and indicates who you represent.
From the moment of birth we identify with our human form and build an identity around it. As we mature from childhood to adulthood, this image is reinforced for the rest of our life.
Yet our lives are nothing more than the accumulation of past conditioning. You are not who you are today as a result of your past, but because of your past. By letting go of who you used to be, you allow the authentic self to emerge, instead of concealing it behind an imagined self.
In her book Mindfulness, author Ellen J. Langer states, “The more we realize that most of our views of ourselves, of others, and of presumed limits regarding our talents, our health, and our happiness were mindlessly accepted by us at an earlier time in our lives, the more we open up to the realization that these too can change. And all we need to do to begin the process is to be mindful.”
If you discard your identity, what is left?
The core self, the deepest part of your spiritual being.
How do you recognise this Self?
It has been with you throughout eternity and while you identify with your body and mind as separate, you disconnect from it.
We ignore our feelings by suppressing our emotions, to dissociate from painful moments. Our lives fall apart and we fail to see the writing on the wall, despite the obvious signs that we turn a blind eye to.
I want you to recognise your primary state is not one of anxiety, fear or stress. These are acquired states shaped through your environment. A child knows nothing of these ideas until attained through its learning. We are only the simple pure awareness at the core of our being.
Be vigilant against identifying with equivalent labels since it limits your evolution as a spiritual being. We erect a wall around us. Think of a baby elephant tethered to a stake in the ground. Whilst it matures to full-size, it remains unaware of its potential having accepted its limitations from an early age.
Similarly, we cannot assume our sole character will carry us through life and not be receptive to change. We must transform to cultivate our strengths. It is through experiencing pain that life offers us that opportunity.
“You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old – whatever “the old” means for you.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
In their best-selling book titled The Tools, authors and psychotherapists Phil Stutz and Michels Barry impart their wisdom related to our pain story, “Your experience of pain changes relative to how you react to it. When you move toward it, pain shrinks. When you move away from it, pain grows. If you flee from it, pain pursues you like a monster in a dream.”
Letting go of who you used to be is comparable to the caterpillar’s transformation to a butterfly. Change is the principle of life – we reframe change to coincide with our evolutionary development instead of regarding it as undesirable.
In light of this, I invite you to connect with your deepest wisdom. While it may sound like New Age mumbo jumbo, at the very least it is your connection to your spiritual essence. Who is the person behind the beliefs, thoughts and ideas? If I asked who you are, you’d recite a list of your past achievements, where you’ve been and what you do for a living.
But who are you now, in this moment?
It commands courage to discard the old self since we don’t know who we will become. As children we adopt our self-image from trusted authorities. Yet as adults, the role is assumed by us, which means having to navigate the treacherous road to discover our self-identity.
What if we get it wrong?
What if we don’t like who we become?
What if change is painful and we want to go back to our former self?
We can take refuge as long as we are moving toward the person we wish to be, we are heading in the right direction. There are no assurances, yet knowing pain is temporary is testament to the purpose it serves, while unbeknownst to us.
Phil Stutz and Michels Barry remind us once more, “Pain is the universe’s way of demanding that you continue to learn. The more pain you can tolerate, the more you can learn.”
We must be careful to avoid settling toward the journey to wholeness. People assume, “This is who I am and I cannot change.” This is erroneous thinking since one’s identity is fluid, enduring constant change over the course of your lifetime.
Equally, character is shaped and formed from an early age, yet it remains malleable throughout life. We adapt to our environment in line with our changing needs. The individual you knew as single in your twenties, is not the same person as when you’re married with children in your forties. You believe your character is fixed and this misconception stands in your way of attaining inner freedom.
Ultimately, our willingness to let go of the person we used to be creates a space for the person we have been all along – the complete, wholeness of the eternal self.